January 13, 27 BCE, Octavian returns to Rome after a heroic victory against Mark Antony’s forces at the battle of Actium. Antony, the once esteemed Roman General of Julius Caesar, has forsaken his heritage and gone native. Denouncing his Roman ties by allying himself to the sphinx Cleopatra and effectively breaking his alliance with Octavian. The shocking discovery uncovered within Antony’s will to donate kingdoms to his children of Cleopatra is an unsightly gesture to the Roman people. Chaos within the Roman empire that began with the assassination of Julius Caesar, culminated in an internal power struggle and unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices within the Republic.
The battle of Actium was over and Mark Antony made his peace with death shortly after. Octavian returns to Rome an uncontested ruler and is granted the name Augustus ( Derived from Augere – meaning to increase, Augustus meaning “Venerable” and can be translated as “The illustrious one”), styling himself as Imperator Caesar divi filius, ” – “Commander Caesar, son of the deified one”. The Imperator, son of the divine.
Towards the lumbering horizon of his seniority he retrospectively stated “I found a city built of sun-dried brick. I leave her clothed in marble.” His victorious return to Rome and the years of ambitious dedication, ruthless planning and cut-throat politics was the beginning of the rebuilding of the society he had now gained near total effective power of. The beginning of Marbilization. The collapse of the Roman republic and the birth of the Empire. What I am most interested in with this story, alongside the fascinating historical conquests of antiquity, is the conceptualized lessons hidden within the fables. What can we glean from the generals, the politicians, the philosophers that helped shape the world we live in today. Augustus is specifically interesting to me due to the relation with the most well known Roman ruler, Julius Caesar, and the subsequent relative peace that followed after Octavian rose to power. A time termed Pax Romana.
So what lessons can be learned during times of conflict and how can we action on these lessons? I like to use stories as a method of contextualizing and enlivening the process of exploring solutions. Creating an attachment of understanding to the past to help plan for the future, as though we can view these fables with an ancestral guiding audience to inspire us to forge our future. This process is inspiring me to answer the question, ” How do you recover from training after you have legitimately regressed mentally and physically?” when you’re mind and body are in a civil war, how do you win? It can be a difficult process to realize the steps backwards that you have taken. Especially when comparing yourself to what you were capable of in the past. So let’s dive in and see how we can use the lens of the past to plot our course for the future.
What lessons are contained within the fables of Emperor Augustus. The Imperator?
Following the battle of Actium, Octavian became Augustus and the senate granted him “maius imperium” he had “supreme power”. It was this supreme power that enabled him to establish himself as the first emperor of Rome, to consolidate power and to give him the necessary tools to enact the changes within the empire he saw fit. So herein lies our first step and our first lesson; you must gain control. For Augustus, he defeated Mark Antony at Actium, he garnered public affection, he gathered the support of the senate and of the public, he held games, he was meticulous, he ployed, plotted and waged war.
What battles must we face to regain control in our own empire?
First of all, I want you to suspend your belief systems briefly. Now imagine your body in it’s entirety is an Empire. An intricate web of systems designed to keep you alive. A network of communication, of trade, of conflict and of harmony. What would an empire of disarray look like? Storing too much body fat? A disconnect between mental and physical health? Not sleeping enough? Not training enough? What might a body in “civil war” look like? For me there is a struggle for blood glucose control, there is physical instability in two out of four of my main joints ( Right hip and shoulder) and as a subsequent by-product of these difficulties a host of other issues that arise, loss of sleep, productivity and… a loss of training. I’m a big believer in the quote of serenity, that is “give me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is important. You must pick your fights and this leads us to our first battle.
Introducing the Imperator training template.
When I set out to recover my training zazz, I needed something simple, that would account for the issues I have been having. The focus of this program design is to consolidate training goals to be inline with foundational principles and to maximize efficiency of training. After all, physical health and strength is but one part of the puzzle, the Imperator has much to busy himself with and is more concerned with results and momentum than wasting time doing anything unnecessary. This program is a 3-5 day program, but works best done over 4-5 days and looks like this.
Simple. Elegant. Effective. But remember, “In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes” ( Who said that? – also side note; training is not war.) If we take the view that having good technique is important, then what may seem trivial now, is in fact greatly important to achieve those results. The execution of this program relies on this mindset.
The intention of me using this layout allows me to structure the focus of my workouts entirely around quality. When you have limited choices for exercise selection it becomes easier to decide based on what is going to give you the best bang for buck. Do I do a leg extension, or a front squat? ( The answer is also relative to your goals) I’ve chosen accessory exercises with two primary functions, one, to improve technique or to assist in improving technique and two, to address any muscular imbalances that may be impeding technique development. Remember, correct movement patterning is restorative and the opposite is detrimental. With this in mind this program is just a layout and is worth NOTHING without the following;
- Discipline towards maintaining technique
- Training with a suitable training load
- Ensuring the correct application of accessory exercises
Also important to note;
There will be a tempo attachment to the main exercises and any applicable variations. Warm-ups will develop and grow over time to represent any specific issues that arise. Not training too heavy or too light, erring on the side of caution ( For me, as I have instability in training and joints, I am forced to use a lighter load to allow me to stay within my stability threshold) The workouts won't take too long. Adhering to a quality over quantity mindset, spearheading our goal of eventually training with quality and quantity. The setup allows for adding on any smaller isolation exercises at the end, time permitting.
So working back from my current position I know there is one avenue that I can regain control over and that is training or at the very least training intent. This is important and gets muddied up very quickly. In order to have a strong training base, you need a strong training plan and philosophy. Our goal is to be as strong as possible, as muscular as possible whilst retaining healthy body fat levels and overall strong physical & mental health. I’ve chosen this layout as it works for me and for anyone who is training alongside a coach or someone who needs to take a step back to really focus on fixing their movement patterning. Also, let me make this abundantly clear, resistance training makes you healthier. Everyone should be doing it. This is an integral part of our lives that must be embraced by everyone.
Now, just as the Imperator aimed to restore peace and order within Rome, we too must restore peace and order within ourselves, so there is more groundwork to be done. What other habitual activities do we have control over?…
In 8 AD, Augustus appointed a permanent praefectus annonae, a “Prefect of the Provisions” who had “jurisdiction over all matters appertaining to the corn-market” now for the most part this was to ensure that food was available, so that people didn’t starve and riot. Food generally keeps people pretty alive and the absence of it doesn’t bode well for public order. However, luckily for us, our bodies albeit they are temples, are not literally an entire Roman Empire ( I would be happy to be corrected here). We’re also the Imperator. So we get to appoint the praefectus annonae, and guess what bucko, you’ve just been promoted.
September 3rd, 36 BC the late Magnus Pompey’s son, Sextus, cut off the supply of grain to Rome eventuating in the battle of Naulochus. Augustus’s general Agrippa led a naval battle against Sextus, defeating him, eventually retaking Sicily and it’s grain imports. Procuring grain shipments from Sicily and diet have never been strengths of mine and over the course of many years I have developed a bond of servitude to eating and it’s varying degrees of demand in relation to blood glucose control. Augustus had a similar issue; Rome had developed a bond of reliance on grain imports that had became difficult to maintain. An issue I’m sure everyone reading this can relate to. We all have our battles to fight, some are navy battles off the Northern coast of Sicily, some are bad habits and relationships you have developed with diet. Each individual has to negotiate their own path to victory. With relation to diet, my focus is, as discussed above with training, being pulled back to the basics.
Here’s the main things I am focusing on.
Consistent routine: I have created eating windows for myself.
- 8-9am: Breakfast.
- 12-2: Lunch
- 6-8: Dinner
These blocks have two purposes, one, to create a consistent eating routine and schedule to follow and two, to allow for consistent, proactive control over diabetes. The eating windows are open enough that there is flexibility, but stable enough that day to day minor variations won’t matter over the long-term for glucose control. Now, the trick here, as above with training, is that the devil is in the detail. We’ve allocated a consistent time frame in which to have each meal, that works with my schedule, but what to do with that information? Well just as we have a set of fundamental principals with training, the same exists for nutrition. If we do not even have a basic plan from which to work from we will be doomed from the start.
Here’s my mindset, there’s a couple of phases of logistical practicalities you have to engage in to eat. For me, I like to borrow from antiquity here again and maintain a hunter-gatherer, foraging mindset when preparing my dietary armory. That is, my fridge and pantry. I view researching, going to the butcher, the fresh grocers and shopping as ” Hunting and gathering” You think about what you want, you acquire the ingredients, you take it home. You “hunt” and “gather”. Incredible. This becomes even more inspiring when acquiring sources of food locally.
This is the first step in a series of steps to aim to develop a creative mindset around nutrition. Cooking is a creative process and when you acquire food that is simply an extension of a factory line you’re inputting yourself into that system. You are the final destination of the conveyor belt. Whereas if you avoid the duopoly as much as possible and buy good quality meat from the local butcher ( JD’s in Pambula), fresh vegetables and produce from the local grocer ( Theo’s Pambula Fruit market), then infuse yourself into the creative process of cooking; now you’re the Prefect of the Provisions, you’re in control.
This mindset makes it much easier to eat good quality food as well. It allows for you to have a quality over quantity mindset with eating. It makes an event out of cooking and preparing a meal. There’s nothing better than crafting an epic feast for a loved one and seeing the joy this sparks in their eye, than providing for yourself and your family. It creates an avenue for conversation and bonding, eating has and always will be an amazing opportunity for creativity and growth. Like a candle slowly burning and providing warmth and light for all around you. Don’t let that opportunity go to waste. For your information Augustus apparently was a very light eater, preferring plain food such as figs, fish and bread. Delicious.
So for me personally my dietary choices are aimed at allowing and promoting better blood glucose levels, infusing a creative process into cooking to craft delicious feasts, ensuring adequate recovery from training and promoting a healthy body-fat level. I’m focusing on using cooking as a creative avenue, using wholesome fresh ingredients. I’m ensuring adequate protein intake at each meal and am focusing on a consistent eating schedule. I’m monitoring my body weight each week and making adjustments to my routine to accommodate for any deviations.
Now we briefly touched on the third topic of the day. That is, the social element. No one is able to maximize the effectiveness of their battle plans without help. Allying yourself to those who are in sync with your cause is a perfect way to gather momentum for victory. Bonds of common struggles can be used to unite a glorious destination. Together, we can collectively restore order to chaos and bring our empires under control. Together we are strong, alone we crumble.
Henceforth, I am reinstating the Praetorian Guard. Augustus in 27 BCE ( It was a busy year for the Imperator) also implemented a permanent Praetorian Guard – who served as an elite group to protect the emperor. Now we do not have to unite in servitude to a monarchy, we are uniting in servitude to ourselves, to our own empire. We are bonding our shields together to protect from our collective self-doubts. An impregnable shield wall. A bond of brotherhood formed in the fires of mount Doom.
This is a call to anyone who wants to join, under the banner of The Iron Legion as the metaphysical “Praetorian Guard”. Our goal is to be strong, to not let our light fade and be swept into the voidal black chaos of nothingness reeled in by the tendrils of time. To fortify our own houses and in doing so be able to invite others in. To provide warmth and light to all around us. To forge our Pax Romana.
This is the framework I’ve outlined for returning order to progression. To waylay chaos in favor of routine. To lend a hand to positive momentum and a stopper to regression. This is simply a set of tools I am attempting to use to assist me in regaining control. A set of principles. As Marcus Aurelius, another Emperor of Rome ( And arguably the last Emperor of the Pax Romana) said ” tranquility is nothing else than the good ordering of the mind.” if we are after a tranquil path to enlighten our future, it would be prudent of us to pay attention to the frameworks we are basing our decisions on. In reality, the “ordering of the mind” which leads to the ordering of our training and nutrition, is the first step in actioning a change.
Following Augustus’s rule and the collapse of the Roman Republic, there was a time of great internal peace within Rome. His legacy is laid out in front of our very eyes, built into our vocabulary and culture. “Caesar” became the word for emperor, variants of which are Tsar, used by Eastern Europe and Kaiser, being the German word for Emperor. He created a Police, the “ohortes urbanae“, and bolstered the Firefighting force. He initiated a courier service, the ” cursus publicus, he created more roads, created a permanent Praetorian guard, the Month of August is named after Augustus. Caesar Salad anyone? ( Joke – laugh.)
What does peace and prosperity look like to you? What kind of internal conflict has festered within. What have you lost control over? And what can you regain control over?